City of Albuquerque tries to decertify a class action lawsuit for gender pay equity

The City of Albuquerque filed a motion last week to try to prevent a class action lawsuit that alleges gender pay discrimination. About 600 women joined four original plaintiffs in 2020 to create a class action lawsuit to seek redress for alleged gender pay discrimination. The original four plaintiffs filed their suit in 2018. Related: ABQ faces class action suit over disparity in pay for women

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Alexandra Freedman Smith, said the pay inequity is so significant, that in some cases, the plaintiffs are alleging there is as much as a $7 an hour difference between what men are paid and what women are paid for the same job. Freedman Smith said some of the women are owed around $100,000 because of the pay differential.

ABQ faces class action suit over disparity in pay for women

The City of Albuquerque is facing a class action lawsuit, filed by female employees who say they have been paid less than their male counterparts for years. 

The suit was filed in 2018, but this month a state district judge ruled that the suit can include any classified female employee who worked at the city between 2013 and 2020 and was paid less than males doing the same job. The suit can also include those who no longer work for the city, but did during that time period. 

Alexandra Freedman Smith, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said she and the other plaintiffs’ attorneys are now in the process of notifying other women who might be owed compensation. 

The impetus of the suit is partly a New Mexico law enacted less than 10 years ago called the Fair Pay for Women Act. 

“The Fair Pay for Women Act was enacted in 2013, so from then on, this has been an issue,” sha said. 

Freedman Smith also said, unlike many other class action lawsuits that offer plaintiffs a cut of a settlement amount, women in this case are owed raises, back pay and possibly a recalculation of retirement pay.  

“The class members are entitled to substantial amounts of money,” she said. “We’re not talking about small amounts, we’re talking about large amounts.”

As part of his decision to allow the suit to become a class action, the judge included evidence that seemed to show a number of men started off at a higher wage than women who had been doing the same job, for longer. 

Freedman Smith said that data shows that the issue is not about job performance or seniority. 

“What we’re talking about is the base pay that people are paid, and they’re just getting a higher base pay from the get go than the women, even women who have been there a lot longer,” Freedman Smith said. 

Freedman Smith also said she has tried to work with the city to address the problem, with no success. 

“We’ve certainly tried to negotiate with them and they just haven’t been willing to do anything about it,” Freedman Smith said. In a statement through a spokesman for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office, the city’s legal department pointed out Keller’s past work advocating for pay equity. 

“While we can’t comment on ongoing litigation, Mayor Keller has been at the forefront of the pay equity fight in New Mexico for years, including leading the first statewide study of pay equity while at the State Auditor’s Office, and he will continue to advance fairness at the city,” the statement read. 

As state auditor, and months before he was elected to be mayor, Keller said his office found pay disparity on a state level. 

But less than a year after Keller became mayor the plaintiff’s filed their suit against the city. At the time, the plaintiffs were represented by Matt Garcia and Jonathan Guss.

Case could determine if state is bound by Fair Pay for Women Act

A pending legal case against the New Mexico Corrections Department may determine whether or not the state must abide by a law requiring equal pay for men and women. The case goes back to a complaint filed in the First Judicial District Court in 2013 against the Corrections Department by Alisha Tafoya-Lucero, a deputy warden with the state corrections department. The complaint alleges that Tafoya-Lucero is paid less than one of her male colleagues and that the department is in violation of the Fair Pay for Women Act, which Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law less than a year before. According to the complaint, Tafoya-Lucero earned $10 less per hour than Derek Williams, another deputy warden. Currently,Tafoya-Lucero is listed as the lowest earning deputy warden, whereas Williams is listed as the top earner for the job classification.